Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

We’re All Stories in the End… April 29, 2014

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Once-Upon-a-Time-photoDo you have favorite story, one that you would read over and over and over again?  One with characters and a plot and a message that speak to your very soul. I know I do. My favorite story, like so many stories, begins with “once upon a time.” It’s an adventure tale, for sure…full of drama, laced with comedy. It’s set in a few exotic locations, it has quite the cast of supporting characters, and even has a few chapters that I would have liked to skip over…sometimes boring, sometimes sad. But at it’s core, it’s a love story…about a boy and girl…who met and fell in love and got married and built a life. A crazy, wonderful, beautiful, amazing life. And even though it’s not finished yet,  I can tell you how it ends. It ends like so many of my favorite love stories. How do I know? I know because it’s our story, mine and Rick’s. It’s the story of us. And today is a special milestone in our story…a milestone that shines like silver in the sunlight…a milestone 25 years in the making.

It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago today…almost to this very minute…that we stood there in that church, in the presence of everyone who loved us the most, and promised to do just that. Love each other the most. For 25 years, he has been my rock. My best friend. My heart and my soul. For 25 years he has given me the greatest gifts I’ll ever receive. And I don’t mean diamonds and pearls and vacations to faraway places. Yes, I’ve been given a diamond or two. Yes, I’ve been given a strand of pearls. Yes, I’ve been whisked away on an adventure now and again. But I would take those pages out of my book in a heartbeat, because while they are fun and shiny and very much appreciated, they aren’t really the things that make a great love story great.

What makes a great love story great are the quiet moments between the big events. The way he laughs when you can’t tie your shoes because your pregnant belly is in the way…and then he gets down and ties them for you. The way he reaches for your hand during the Christmas Eve service because he knows that every year you are weepy with the ghosts of Christmas past. The way he brushes the hair from your face and brings you a cold beer when you’ve been working in the garden all day. The way he wipes the tears from your eyes when your babies leave home, and quietly reminds you that you’ve done a good job, but it’s time to let them go. The way he’s willing to work with you, and for you…and the way he smiles at you and says, “all I need to be happy is to know that you are happy….”

Twenty-five years is a long time. And yes, there have been dark days and raised voices. Moments when I shake my head in disbelief that he still hasn’t mastered the laundry and can’t quite remember the kid’s schedules. And I’m sure days when he winces at the passive-aggressive way I handle anger and disappointment, and days when he wishes I loved cooking breakfast or maybe even wonders if I’m ever really going to cook anything again. It would be crazy to believe that in 25 years there hasn’t been hurt and anger and frustration. Every good novel has conflict and resolution…but what makes our story a great story is that somehow, through all the crazy ups and downs and challenges that we’ve encountered, we’re still here. Still filling in the pages. Still writing new chapters. Standing together, hand in hand, just like we were in that church 25 years ago. A little older. A little wiser. Still crazy in love with each other. Still promising to love each other the most. I knew after 25 seconds that I wanted to be a part of his story, and I’m beyond blessed to know that after 25 years, he still wants me to be the leading lady in his story. And if I could live 25 lifetimes…or 50…or a million…I would still want this story to be our story. Good times and bad, challenges and successes. Laughter and tears. And love. So much love.

This is our story. And even though it’s still being written, I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you skip ahead to the ending, it goes something like this….”and they lived happily ever after. The end.”

 

 

Pistol Annies ~  I Hope You’re the End of  My Story

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

Sometimes this road that we travel

Feels like it’s leading us on

Spinning our wheels just stirs up the gravel

Before you know it, it’s gone.

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

I’ll keep on turning the pages

Oh what a story to tell

You’ll still be my sweetheart when everything ages,

We’ll be the last book on the shelf

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

.

 

 

To Have and To Hold April 29, 2012

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Once upon a time, a quarter of a century ago, I ran into a handsome young man in a local parking lot. Circumstances being what they were, we struck up a conversation that seemed oddly comfortable right from the start, like being near each other was something that had always been.

A year later, the handsome young man asked me to be his wife. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life, but oddly enough, it didn’t come as a surprise. Because just like being near him seemed like a comfort and a joy that I had always known, marrying him seemed like a given…a foregone conclusion…the only possible end to the story that started one year before.  Don’t get me wrong here. This is not to say that I took the handsome young man’s proposal for granted. I did not. Even at the tender age of 22, I knew that life was always waiting to throw you a curve ball, to keep you unbalanced in some way so that you might never get too comfortable, never get off your game. But way, way down, in the deepest recesses of my heart I knew. I knew that he was the one for me. The sun, the moon, the stars, and all of the beautiful fairy tales combined. I have always been a believer of “when you know, you know….when it’s right, it’s right.” Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to think about my answer. Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to stop and wonder if I was too young or too secure or financially ready to get married. Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to think about whether or not I was ready to spend the rest of my life with one man…with this man.

Another year later, the handsome young man stood at the front of a beautiful church. He stood there waiting…waiting for me. Waiting for me to walk down the aisle and stand beside him. Waiting for me to join him…to be one with him….to have and to hold from that moment on, always walking together, moving forward together, living our future together.

Has it been hard sometimes? Of course it has. Has it been frustrating sometimes? Of course it has. What I have learned in the past 23 years is that marriage is work. But so is anything worth having, worth nurturing, worth holding on to. I’ve learned that it always requires a 100 percent effort…it’s just that sometimes one has to be willing to give 95 percent and only take 5, and then before you know it you are getting 95 percent when you only have a little to offer back. It is working together, loving together, facing the hard and the ugly and the mundane together. And if the commitment to moving forward together is there, then the rest falls into place and the rewards are so sweet.

Twenty-three years later, the handsome young man is still the sun, the moon, the stars and all of the beautiful fairy tales combined. He may not be as young as he was then, but then neither am I. But he is surely as handsome, maybe more. And he is smart and funny and kind and a great dad. And he has blessed me with four more handsome young men. And I see him in them.  And that makes me so, so happy. And when I look into his face,  I can see worry lines from the times that were tough and smile lines that are the sweet reminders of all the times that we laughed. I look into his eyes and I see my handsome young man, the one who has grown with me and learned with me and loved with me. I fall into his arms and I am home. All of these years later…with my handsome young man.

 

To Love, and to Be Loved February 15, 2012

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Married Life — beautifulride @ 1:42 am
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Remember Valentine’s Day back when you were a young, school-aged child? Staying up the night before to make sure you had all of your cards filled out, ready to be delivered to the little hand-made “mail boxes” of your classmates. Remember the feeling of opening all of the cards, hoping maybe the special someone you had a little crush on would write “love” instead of “from” when they signed their name? How it made your stomach jump just a little, even in the 4th grade?

Remember Valentine’s Day when you were in junior high? Like so much of being a tween, you were never quite sure of how you were feeling, and moods and emotions could change on a dime during those years. On the one hand, you were grateful that you no longer had to pass out cards to everyone in your classroom, that kind of Valentine celebration ~ a party of cupcakes and “Be Mine’s” on 3 x 5 cards printed with super heros, princesses, and Winnie-the Pooh ~ well, to a 7th grader that was definitely beneath you. That was for little kids. But on the other hand, maybe secretly, you hoped that someone would slip a little note into your locker that said “I think you’re sweet, be my Valentine.”

Remember Valentine’s Day in high school? I remember in my high school, you could order flowers for your classmates. White meant “friend,” pink meant “I like you,” and of course, red meant “I love you.” I remember hating that day. It was so stressful, because it was all so public. Would you get a flower, would you get several, would you get none. When you’re in tenth grade, getting that flower means everything. At least in elementary school, you go down the list and you hand a Valentine to everyone in the room. By high school, Valentine’s Day, and the number of “flowers” you were given, could be a very defining event.  Were you the “lucky in love” girl that got many flowers, all reds and pinks; or were you nice girl that got some white ones from your friends; or were you the girl that went home flowerless, convinced that love and romance and that very special boy would never come your way.

For many, what happens on Valentine’s Day is a test. A test of whether or not we are liked…or loved. A test of how much we are liked…or loved. A test of whether or not our significant other loves us enough to remember the flowers, or the candy, or the card. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and a lot of pressure on our loved ones, in the middle of every February. And why? I think it is because, deep down, we are all looking for the same thing. The reassurance that we are special. The promise that we are loved. And I think that we believe this outward expression of love from another to us will put to rest all of the self-doubt that we are worthy of that special love that we all wish for.

When I started this post, I thought I would write about my own Valentine. How special I feel, how loved I feel, how lucky I feel. And, as I started writing, I realized that instead of writing about how wonderful my Valentine’s Day was, I really started to remember how less-than-wonderful many of my past Valentine’s Days were….because a fourth grade boy didn’t sign my card “love”….because a seventh grade boy didn’t slip a note inside my locker…because a tenth grade  boy didn’t send me a pink or a red flower.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That not having a date on Valentine’s Day does not mean I’m not special. That not getting flowers or a card or candy does not constitute a broken promise of love.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That I should treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day. That I shouldn’t wait for the middle of February to come around to tell my love how I feel about him. That I should be grateful for the smallest gestures ~ the look that says I understand, the steady hand that calms my fears, the warm embrace that brings me comfort, the gentle kiss that promises love.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That diamonds and romantic dinners are wonderful gifts, but the most amazing gifts are to love, and to be loved. To love and be loved by our friends. To love and be loved by our families. To love and to be loved by our children. To love and to be loved by our soul mate, our one true Valentine. In the every day, in the quiet, in the messy, in the funny,  in the real. That’s what I wish I knew then. And that is what I know now…what I have now. I love, and I am loved. And that’s what makes every day Valentine’s Day.

 

All Is Calm, All Is Bright December 26, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 12:49 pm
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All is calm, all is bright.

It is the morning after Christmas, and these words couldn’t be more true. As I started my day early this morning, my home was blanketed in the beautiful silence and stillness of the morning that I have grown to love. My family was sound asleep, hopefully still dreaming of sugarplums and Christmas memories. The light of the sun was just beginning to glow, slowly bringing to life another day. The traffic was slow and quiet, as it is on a holiday…no commuters rushing to the train…no school children headed to classes. I started a little laundry, picked up a few dishes that mysteriously appeared after I drifted off last night, took care of my mama chores. I stepped out into the chilly morning to bring in the milk and yogurt and bread dropped off by the milkman, impressed that he had already stopped by and a little disappointed that I didn’t get my empty bottle out for him. And then I poured a fresh, warm cup of coffee and sat in the living room, with the tree lights twinkling in the corner and the remnants of yesterday tucked into tidy little piles of boxes and surprises on the floor.

The piles are a bit smaller than years past…and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. Perhaps it’s because the boys are getting older, and gone are the days of large, brightly colored plastic playthings. Those were great days, and magical mornings, but now they are older and their gifts of choice come in much smaller packages. Perhaps though, it’s because they had much smaller lists this year…more modest, more thoughtful, more practical. Maybe it was all the talk of the economy and it’s downturn this past year. Or maybe it’s that with every passing year, they look more and more toward our family traditions of Christmas and less and less at what’s under the tree. Don’t misunderstand…the surprises under the tree, in their beautiful wrapping and fancy bows, are still a huge part of the anticipation of Christmas morning; but, I’m finding that they are becoming more appreciative of the gifts that we give that speak to who they are…less so with the idea of stuff for the sake of getting stuff.

They would probably say, just about now, that Mom is sappy…just being Mom…and that none of this is true. That they would want to find iPads and laptops and flat screens and whatever is the latest and greatest under the tree attached to a gift tag with their name on it. But from what I saw yesterday, and from the thank you hugs and conversations about what an awesome Christmas it was and what cool stuff they got, I would say that they are more grateful and more grounded than they would want anyone to believe.

It has been a roller coaster ride of a year for our family, both good and bad. We’ve watched those we love struggle with illness and tough times. We’ve felt the beginnings of a shift in our own lives, as one son moved to the other side of a neighboring state, and another got a letter of acceptance that will soon take him north. We’ve been blessed with work, but it has kept us very, very busy…and apart…as Rick travels a great deal for business. We’ve seen my little business grow, but not without the growing pains and time commitment that come along with that. We’ve seen our other sons work hard and find success in the activities that make them so happy, and their willingness and devotion to doing what they do. We’ve experienced an earthquake (slight), a hurricane and an autumn snowstorm that left us with damages we didn’t expect. We have cried and we have worried and we have prayed…and we have lived and we have laughed and we have loved.

One of my favorite images of this holiday season happened this past Friday, as we took our annual train ride into the City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Macy’s, and the crèche at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were walking down the street, and I was in the back of our little crowd. And I watched them together, brother to brother and father to sons. They were laughing and talking and enjoying their time together. My heart was so full I thought it would burst.

A little later, the very next night, we attended Christmas Eve services together. We sang the words to “Silent Night.” That hymn, sung at that time, in that setting has always made me well up just a little. I become flooded with memories of Christmases past…my grandparents, my parents, my husband and our children as babies…those that are with us still and those that have moved on. And I was reminded that things change. That time does not stand still. But for that one moment, as I looked to my right and saw them all standing there together, singing together and creating a memory that they may share together in a Christmas yet to come, I felt truly happy and truly blessed. And all was calm…and all was bright.

 

Any Dream Will Do July 22, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Music — beautifulride @ 8:51 am
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Last week, I had the pleasure of watching our son, Aaron, perform the lead of “Joseph”  in the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And as I sat on the edge of my seat, nervous for him, yet beaming with pride, I was taken aback by his ease on the stage, his comfort with the other actors, and especially the expression on his face — the one that said to me “I’m living a dream!”

If you’re not familiar with the show, you should know that “dreams”  are an overriding theme.  The musical is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, Jacob’s much loved son, you know — the one with the beautiful colored coat. Joseph was a dreamer — in the literal sense of the word — meaning, he had amazing dreams of his own, and he was able to interpret the dreams of others. These skills came in handy when Joseph found himself sold into slavery by his eleven jealous brothers, and when he was imprisoned by his irate master for unwillingly messing around with the lady of the house. Interpreting Pharoah’s dreams are what got him out of “the joint” and led to his dream life as Pharoah’s right-hand man. When his brothers show up to beg for food during the famine, Joseph’s own dreams of eleven stars bowing down to his finally made sense. The family is happily reunited and Joseph sings a reminder to the audience — a reminder that “Any Dream Will Do.”

This, of course, got me thinking about dreams. Not so much the kind that happen when your head blissfully falls upon the pillow and you drift off to peaceful slumber, but the dreams you hold in your heart and in your soul.  The kind of dreams that are so unique and personal to each and every one of us that we share them only with our closest confidants, and usually with great hesitation, almost afraid that to say it out loud will cause them to not come true. The kind of dreams that get us out of bed at the crack of dawn and keep us up until the wee hours of the morning — working, and waiting, and hoping that our dream will come true. And what I love the most about Joseph’s message is the idea that ANY dream will do. Sometimes I think we don’t give our own dreams enough validity…we tell ourselves that our dreams are too small to matter or too big to achieve. But we’re wrong. Even our smallest dreams are worth something…because they come from that place in our heart that drives us to better ourselves, our situations, our environments, our relationships…do you EVER hear anyone say they dream of a messier home, worse grades, a demotion at work. No, we dream of strong relationships, professional achievements, peace in the world, love in our hearts. And big dreams are really just the result of a series of little dreams coming true, one at a time, step by step, moment by moment. So keep dreaming those dreams that speak to you. Dream of mending broken relatiohnships, dream of doing the best job you can do, dream of changing the world for the better, dream of singing your song and dancing your dance…dream YOUR dream…ANY dream…ANY DREAM WILL DO!

 

Thanks for the Memories…But I’ve Had Enough! June 21, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home — beautifulride @ 8:34 am
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I remember the first time I laid eyes on you, nearly a dozen years ago. I was standing alone on the lot…my husband at work, the children divided up between school and a friend. I was in a rush, no surprise there…and wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for…and then I saw you…the early autumn sun shining down on your body of steel…and I knew I had to have you. I loved your deep bordeaux color, and the fact that it was named after a favorite wine didn’t hurt! I loved that you could accommodate my expanding figure–7 months pregnant behind the wheel is never pretty and always a tricky fit. I loved that you could easily carry 2 car seats and a booster and your automatic sliding door, well, what a treat that was for someone who always had a bag of groceries, a bag of diapers, and scads of babies dangling from my shoulders, arms and hips. But all of that was just icing on the cake. You had me at 5-star safety rating. Hook, line, and sinker!

Over the years, you treated me well. You safely brought a new baby home from the hospital. You carefully took many trips back to the hospital over the years, spending countless nights in the parking lot, waiting for boys to get well and get home. You’ve taken us to beautiful destinations, crossing the country more than once–east to west and north to south. You’ve lulled your passengers to sleep and your sound system has helped keep your drivers awake. You were strong and brave, taking the hits more than once to protect your precious cargo. Remember the time the dump truck in front of us just stopped, and started moving in reverse, oblivious to the sound of your horn and the screams of your passengers. The sound of your crunching front end stopped him in his tracks. You were damaged, but we were all safe in your cabin. And I’ll always be grateful for the time you put your front end between a new teenaged driver and the hit-and-run menace that ran a red light. Another ding in your fender, but I was glad it was you and not the smaller, weaker car that he could have been driving.

Yes, over the years, you were there for me…for us. A  home away from home as we travelled to weddings and from funerals. You were a sweet ride for 6 as we headed to family gatherings and celebrations, to visit friends, to move to new homes in new states. You’ve witnessed joyful homecomings and tearful goodbyes, heated arguments and heartfelt apologies, tender moments and difficult conversations. You’ve been filled with spilled soda and squirted with juice boxes. You have had mud tracked on your floors, cheerios stuck in every crevice, papers strewn on every surface. You’ve been the “recipient” of many a carsick child’s “gifts.” And we’ve shared music and singing and laughter…so much laughter. Yes, for many years you were very good to me.

But then things changed…you changed. You started to become unreliable. You were no longer the trusted friend and knight in shining armor that you once were. I forgave you when you left me standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. I thought it was a fluke…that you were expressing your love of the Eagles and just giving me another story to tell from my cross-country trip that I made with 4 children aged 4-13, while my husband waited to greet us in New Jersey. But things slowly went south from there. You started to leave me standing alone more and more. In parking lots, on major highways, on city streets. Dead batteries, blown tires, burnt transmissions…the list goes on. I felt betrayed…abandoned. But, like the girlfriend that runs back to her man every time he says “Baby, I’m sorry…I’ll be better, I’ll try harder,” I took you back. Well, first I took you to the mechanic via the AAA tow truck that I had on speed dial…but then I’d take you back. And you’d fail me again, and again, and again. Would you start when I needed to go pick up the kids…maybe, but only if  I could successfully slip you into neutral. Would the reverse lights ever guide me safely down my driveway again…probably not. Would the sliding door ever close and latch again without leaving the front door open…doubtful. Would the driver side window open when I needed to pay the tolls on the Garden State Parkway or the Pennsylvania Turnpike…no.

I thought you would change, with enough money and enough attention, but I was wrong. I tried everything I could think of to make it work, after all, we’ve been together for 12 years. We’ve shared a history, we’ve shared memories, we’ve shared 154,000 miles. But I’m older and I’m wiser than I was when you drove into my life all those years ago. I’m not willing to put up with that kind of bad behavior anymore. So I’m kicking you (or towing you) to the curb and moving on…to a sweet ride that will treat me right…at least for the next 3 years and 3 month. Don’t be sad, 2000 Ford Windstar Minivan with auto sliding doors and seating for 7, I’ll cherish the memories, but I’m moving on. I could say it’s not you, it’s me…but it’s you.  I’m not making excuses for your poor treatment anymore. I deserve better! So 2011 Ford Flex with 5 star safety rating, Microsoft Sync, leather upholstery, seating for 7, retro white roof and a body of shining silver like Sir Lancelot himself–I’m all yours baby…let’s hit the road!

 

Just Doing What They Do June 15, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Music,Pets — beautifulride @ 8:01 am
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One of my favorite things about being a Mom is watching my boys find the things that make them truly  happy…the things that  light a little spark inside of them, and then watching that spark turn into a passion and a fire that they feel deep down in their soul. I’ve been lucky, because my guys seem to have each found something that they love to do…something that they keep doing because, for whatever reason, it is so vital to them that they can’t NOT do it. In our home, at this moment in time, the breakdown is something like this. Grant, my youngest, has happy feet–can’t stop dancing, running, jumping. He has 5 years of dance classes under his belt at the tender age of 11, and although he plays football, and wants to add basketball and baseball to his list, he tells me those sports are “only the appetizer, dance is still the main course.” Aaron is 15, and he is also all about performing. He sings, he acts, he dreams of movies and television and stage. And he doesn’t just dream about it, he really works at it. He’ll audition for anything, take the smallest role and work it with everything he’s got. He practices, studies, takes classes. And when I see him performing on the stage, I can see that he is happy. Max, at 17, prefers to stay out of the limelight, but is no less passionate about the things that are important to him. A quiet, but avid activist, Max is the first to volunteer for something that could improve the life of another; whether it is teaching children, heading to Appalachia to improve homes, lending a helping hand in New Orleans, or doing a task for me at home. Even as a little boy, he would get so angry about  injustice and inequality–even if he was on the winning end of the stick. He questions the status quo, speaks out against intolerance and prejudice, and truly believes that we can BE better, DO better, LIVE better. Zach, my oldest at 20, has a real passion for music. Back in the day, when he would do crazy things like cut school, it wasn’t to hang with friends or get into mischief. He would come home and practice that guitar for hours and hours and hours, racing home to it like it was a Siren calling him to the sea. He practiced everyday, studied different styles, bought every instrument he could get his hands on…and telling him to put down the guitar would be like telling him to cut off his right arm.  

Now, before I come off as THAT Mom…you know…the one who is convinced that her children are  THE most beautiful, wonderful, talented, perfect, smartest, best thing since sliced bread, let me just say that I do TRY to keep my Mama Rose tendencies in check. It’s a difficult, fine line we parents walk when our children are passionate about something. As the Mother Hen, we want to protect them from criticism, hurt feelings, and rejection. We want them to always get the part, the lead, the gig, the job. We want to put them in a safe little bubble, where nothing can hurt them, where no one will challenge their opinions or destroy their confidence. BUT, we don’t do them any good when we tell them they are perfect at everything they do. So we try very hard to walk that line, reminding them to dance for the love of dance and to sing for the love of the song. Not to write a song with the hopes of winning an award, but because you have something to say–and lend a helping hand to those that are struggling and suffering through injustice and intolerance not because it’s the cause of the month, but because you know in your heart that it’s a wrong that needs to be made right. And we remind them again and again that if they really love it, to dig in and work hard and don’t take anything for granted.

I believe (in my crazy Mom mind) that is why my guys just do what they do…they sing and dance and act and write and speak out because they can’t help themselves. And Lord knows, their areas of interest do not necessarily lead to the most lucrative futures, but you know what, I would rather see them make a modest living doing what they love than make a fortune doing what they hate. I hope they always, always have the courage to chase their dreams!

*Ok, now the “Mama Rose” posting of the talent! Actually, Aaron just had a recital and he asked me to post these songs for his Grammie, especially his duet with his friend Marnie (whose voice is spectacular). I apologize for the video quality, the spotlights mess with the flip camera, but you get the idea! Aaron knows how much Grammie loves “Phantom of the Opera” and he also knows that she is not on facebook, but does read the blog. Actually, I think my wonderful and supportive Mother-in-Law is my biggest blog fan–how cool is that! So Grammie, get out the tissues, and have a seat–this is from Aaron for you!